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5.8.3 Former Looked After Children in Custody - The Responsibilities of Medway Children’s Services and Medway Youth Offending Team - Protocol, Procedure and Guidance

RELATED CHAPTERS /STANDARDS

Looked After Children and Young People in Contact with Youth Justice Services Procedure

Remands to Local Authority Accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation Procedure

National Standard 9: Planning and delivering interventions in custody and resettlement into the community (including Civil Detention Orders)

Please note: Young people may cease to be looked after when they enter custody. This may be because they are no longer accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 or because they had been Looked After by virtue of being remanded to local authority accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation under section 91 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

AMENDMENT

The links and note above were added to this chapter in July 2013.


Contents

  1. Background
  2. Introduction
  3. When a Custodial Sentence Seems Likely
  4. Information Sharing
  5. Information from the Prison Service
  6. Assessment of Need and Risk
  7. Differences According to Legal Status
  8. Planning and Review Process
  9. Sentence Planning
  10. Timing of Visits
  11. Financial Arrangements
  12. Planning for Release
  13. Support in the Community
  14. Review Process


1. Background

This protocol & guidance, sets out the Medway response to the Department of Education’s guidance and Regulations (November 2010) Looked After Children (LAC) in custody including arrangements for visiting former LAC while in custody.

New duties were imposed on local authorities (April 2011) in respect of young people who, upon detention, cease to be Looked After, but who are not Relevant and so not entitled to support as care leavers. This may be because they were, prior to detention, Accommodated (under section 20 of the Children Act 1989) and will leave custody before their 16th birthday, or they are aged 16 or 17 but have been Looked After for less than 13 weeks since the age of 14 (perhaps because they were remanded into local authority accommodation immediately prior to sentence).

The responsible local authority must appoint a representative to visit the young person to assess their needs.


2. Introduction

Children’s Services Departments and Youth Offending Teams (YOT) are expected to have robust arrangements in place to check for each other’s involvement with individual children, including those placed outside their home authority. This principle is an essential element of these procedures. If a Looked After Child or relevant care leaver (aged 10-17) is arrested, the child’s social worker/leaving care Personal Advisor (PA) child’s social worker/PA and YOT worker must communicate with each other and share relevant information about the child/young person’s circumstances and needs. This will include the Child’s social worker/PA children’s social worker/PA passing on key information from the child/young person’s Care Plan/Pathway Plan and the YOT worker disclosing details of the child/young person’s offending.

Former relevant care leavers (aged 18 –21) will come to the attention of the Probation Provider rather than the YOT. Practitioners must be proactive in seeking to elicit each other’s involvement, but the same principles of sharing relevant information from pathway plans apply.

The Children Act 2004 has strengthened duties for key agencies to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and to co-operate with each other.


3. When a Custodial Sentence Seems Likely

If a custodial sentence or remand is considered to be likely, the child’s social worker/PA and YOT workers should work together to prepare the child/young person (and their family, if appropriate), explaining what may happen and how the child/young person will be supported during and after their time in custody.

The young person’s child’s social worker/PA should attend court with the child/young person throughout, and especially on the day of sentence. This will ensure that the child / young person is well supported, and that the child/young person’s best interests are being represented, for example by discussing the possibility of an appeal with the child/young person’s representative.


4. Information Sharing

Although prison is not a placement in the usual sense, prison staff have the same need for information about the child/young person as in any other residential setting.

If the child/young person is remanded or sentenced to custody, regardless of their legal status, the child’s social worker/PA must contact the prison case/resettlement worker and/or the social worker based in the prison to inform them of:

  • The child/young person’s legal status;
  • Who has parental responsibility;
  • Name and contact details of allocated Child’s social worker/PA and Group Manager;
  • Any immediate information necessary to ensure the child/young person’s safety;
  • Relevant information about the child/young person’s family/carers and contact arrangements;
  • Date when the child’s social worker/PA will be visiting the child/young person.

The child’s social worker/PA should provide any relevant information from the child/young person’s Care Plan or Pathway Plan.


5. Information from the Prison Service

The Child’s social worker/PA should seek information from the caseworker or prison social worker re:

  • Visiting arrangements for practitioners and for family/carers/friends;
  • Systems/arrangements for providing money, clothing and other belongings to the child/young person;
  • Sentence planning system;
  • Arrangements for speaking to the child/young person on the telephone;
  • Contact details of prison staff, including those on the young person’s wing;
  • Arrangements for keeping the Child’s social worker/PA informed of significant events, such as transfers.


6. Assessment of Need and Risk

The allocated social worker/YPA should visit the child/young person, regardless of the child/young person’s legal status, within ten days of imprisonment to assess the child’s needs whilst in prison.

The assessment should address:

  • Is the child/young person safe?
  • Is there a risk of self-harm?
  • What is the child/young person’s mental state?
  • Does the child/young person need money, clothes, books or other practical support?
  • What impact has the sentence had on family relationships?
  • Does there need to be help with family arrangements?
  • Are the prison education staff aware of and able to meet the child/young person’s educational needs, including any special needs or abilities?
  • Are the health unit and wing staff aware of and able to meet the child/young person’s health needs?
  • Are staff aware of and able to meet the child/young person’s particular religious and cultural needs?
  • What action is needed to provide for the child/young person’s accommodation on release? Which local authority will be responsible for arranging this if not Medway?
  • Is the child/young person worried about anything? If so what?
  • Are changes needed to the child/young person’s care plan/pathway plan?

This assessment will form the basis of an interim plan which should deal with how the child/young person’s needs will be met in prison and who is responsible for each aspect of the plan. For young people who qualify or will qualify under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 the Pathway Plan or Pathway Plan Review process should be used. For children / young people who are subject of care orders the care planning process will continue and should deal with these issues. For children/young people who were looked after or were care leavers at the point of imprisonment, plans must be approved in consultation with the Independent Reviewing Officer.

For any child / young person who was looked after under Section 20 of the Children Act immediately prior to imprisonment, or who was remanded to the care of the local authority, and who thus loses this status upon imprisonment, the assessment must still be completed. A decision should then be taken by the Service Manager for Looked After Children (in consultation with the IRO) regarding the continuation of planning during the young person’s period of imprisonment, taking into account guidance under Section 7, Differences According to Legal Status and Section 8, Planning and Review Process.


7. Differences According to Legal Status

Responsibilities will differ according to the legal status of the child/young person and LAC (2004)26: Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children and Young People in Custody sets out the expectations regarding this. The implications for good practice are as follows:

  • If a child/young person is subject to a Care Order, they continue to be looked after whilst in prison and the Responsible Authority with the order remains responsible for ensuring that care planning continues and that their needs are met;
  • If a child has been in S20 care, or has been remanded to the care of the local authority, they are not subsequently formally looked after during their time in prison, but remain entitled to an assessment and plans to meet their needs during their time in prison and on release. This will include early consideration as to whether they will become looked after again on release and, if so, by which local authority. If there has been no prior plan for the child to cease being looked after, the presumption must be that the child will require accommodation on release. LAC (2004)26 states that the local authority where the YOI is situated is responsible for identifying where the child will live on release and for contacting the Responsible Authority. If the assessment concludes that the child does not require social services support whilst in prison or subsequent accommodation under Children Act S20, evidence of alternative plans for meeting their needs should be provided. These plans must be approved by the head of Looked After Children’s service in consultation with the Independent Reviewing Officer before the case is closed;
  • If the child/young person is a relevant care leaver their status remains unchanged whilst in prison and the social services department that last looked after them retains responsibility for providing support during their time in prison and on release. (Some children/young people will achieve this status whilst they are in prison: i.e. those who reach age 16 whilst in prison, had reached 13 weeks looked after since the age of 14 and were in S20 care or remand to local authority accommodation immediately prior to imprisonment);
  • Similarly, the status of former relevant care leavers remains unchanged during their time in prison and the responsible local authority will remain that which last looked after them;
  • Children who have been looked after for significant periods but were not deemed to be looked after immediately prior to imprisonment, and who do not already have “leaving care” status may be considered ineligible for social services support as looked after children or care leavers. Their circumstances should be checked carefully to ensure that their legal status is interpreted correctly. For example, being missing from a placement is not the same as having been discharged from care. The social worker/probation officer in the prison should undertake these checks. In any event such children may be entitled to an assessment as qualifying children under Section 24 of the Children Act 1989 if any period of accommodation included time after their 16th birthday. It must be remembered that any child may be a child in need under S17 of the Children Act regardless of their legal status (see LAC (2004)26: Safeguarding and Promoting the Welfare of Children and Young People in Custody).


8. Planning and Review Process

The child/young person should be enabled to nominate a person within the prison to act as the link with their social services planning process. It is suggested that this is the prison social worker/probation officer, but the child/young person may choose a caseworker or personal officer. There should be arrangements for back-up in the nominated person’s absence. This link person will be informed of the key elements of the child/young person’s plan and, in turn, will keep the child/young person’s social worker informed of events within the prison.

  • For children/young people subject to Care Orders the usual LAC planning and reviewing process applies, including advance consultation with the child/young person and other key participants. It is good practice to undertake a review during the first month of the sentence and within the last month before release, but minimum statutory time scales should apply between;
  • For children who were looked after under S20, the plan will not be reviewed under LAC arrangements but it is good practice to review it as a “child in need” plan;
  • For relevant and former relevant care leavers, the usual Pathway Planning Review process applies.

If the child/young person is in agreement, the nominated prison link person and YOT worker should be invited to LAC, Pathway Plan or Child in Need review meetings.

The agenda for the review meeting will need to take the prison setting into account and many questions in standard forms and paperwork will not be relevant. Large, formal review meetings may not be the most appropriate way of undertaking reviews in prison. The child/young person should be actively consulted about the most useful process. Some children/young people may want a meeting; others may prefer to meet with only the IRO and child’s social worker/PA. The IRO in consultation with the case holding child’s social worker/PA is responsible for negotiating this.

For relevant and former relevant young people the case holding child’s social worker/PA is responsible for arranging the Pathway Plan Review. Again this can be formal with the nominated prison link person and YOT worker invited if a young person chooses, but can be a meeting between the young person and their social worker/YPA.


9. Sentence Planning

Sentence planning serves a different purpose from care or pathway planning. It is designed to plan the activities the child/young person will be engaged in during their sentence, both in prison and in the community. It is service-led rather than needs-led and primarily aimed at reducing the risk of re-offending. Given these different purposes, it is not appropriate that the planning meetings be combined, but robust links should be made between them.

The Child’s social worker/PA should ensure that he/she is invited to sentence planning meetings and it is good practice to attend whenever possible. As a minimum during a short sentence the Child’s social worker/PA should attend the first meeting and the meeting where the pre-release plan is discussed. For longer sentences or where there are particular difficulties, it is appropriate to attend more often but the main focus of the social work task is to meet regularly with the child/young person and to establish ongoing liaison with the YOT worker and prison link worker.

If the child’s social worker/PA is not going to attend the meeting they should ensure that the prison link worker feeds the relevant information re the child/young person’s care or pathway plan into the meeting.

The YOT worker is responsible for making the links between the respective plans and (if the child’s social worker/PA is not present) feeding information back.


10. Timing of Visits

When a young person has been remanded or sentenced to custody a visit must be made by a representative appointed by the local authority. This can be a foster carer, child’s social worker/PA or social worker. Current legislation requires that this function cannot be undertaken by a YOT worker, who has their own distinct tasks to carry out in respect of sentence planning and review meetings. However the YOT worker and the child’s social worker/PA or other representative will be expected to work closely together and where appropriate to undertake joint visits. The initial visit must be arranged within 10 days of the young person entering into custody. Where possible this initial visit should coincide with the sentence-planning meeting, which will be confirmed by the MYOT worker.


11. Financial Arrangements

It is not Medway Council Children’s Services practice to continue the payment of pocket money and other allowances to Looked After Children or care leavers when they are in custody.

Acting on the Council's behalf, child’s social worker/PAs should consider (and where appropriate arrange) to provide gifts etc. at Christmas (or other religious festival) and on birthdays - taking into account any rules for the establishment where the young person is held. Also, child’s social worker/PAs should sympathetically consider requests for one-off allowable purchases such as radios etc. Any cash payments must be via a postal order made payable to the governor of the establishment and sent by post direct to the establishment.

The young person’s Pathway Plan must take account of their sentence and release plans. With the agreement of the MILAC Group Manager (Responsible Budget Officer) a young person may continue to receive some allowance whilst they are in custody and engaging in and complying with their Pathway Plan.

As a young person approaches release it will be appropriate to consider issues such as clothing needs etc. and where appropriate to make arrangements for funding these through the care or pathway planning processes.


12. Planning for Release

Child’s social worker/PA must ensure that they are involved in the plans for release of Looked After Children, former S20 children who will become Looked After on release, or Care Leavers. In most cases, they will be responsible for ensuring the provision of accommodation as well as for financial, practical and emotional support. Child’s social worker/PAs should also ensure that they are involved in discussions about early release and the child/young person’s ability to cope with any additional supervision requirements, such as electronic monitoring or Intensive Supervision and Surveillance (ISS). Wherever possible arrangements should be made for children/young people to visit prospective placements and employment or educational facilities and to meet relevant practitioners before their release. Planning for release should be undertaken in partnership with the nominated YOT worker.

The needs of children serving long sentences are likely to change and need to be assessed over time. Where parents or guardians are able to meet the child’s needs whilst in custody, but will not be able to provide suitable accommodation or support on release, it may not be necessary for MILAC to undertake regular visits for the entire sentence. They should however, ensure that they receive regular information about the child’s progress and should agree with the child’s YOT worker the point when re-assessment should be carried out, with a view for planning for release. Visits should be resumed at this point. A re-assessment would also be triggered by a change in circumstances or needs at any stage in the custodial period.

It is essential that there is clarity about who is responsible for each element of the release plan and the arrangements for communication and enforcement.

As soon as possible before release the child must know:

  • Who is collecting them;
  • Where they will live;
  • The reporting arrangements;
  • Sources of support – including out of hours;
  • The arrangements for education or employment;
  • Arrangements for meeting continuing health needs;
  • How and when they will receive financial support;
  • When they will be seeing their social worker;
  • The roles and responsibilities of the respective practitioners.

The release plan should be in writing with copies available for the child/young person and all practitioners involved.


13. Support in the Community

The child’s social worker/PA must remain a presence in the child/young person’s life. Their role is different and more extensive than that of the YOT worker, whose involvement will be determined by the length of any order and the child/young person’s offending behaviour rather than their wider social needs. Children/young people are vulnerable in the early days after release and need considerable help, both emotionally and practically to:

  • Meet the requirements for reporting and surveillance;
  • Sort out finances;
  • Settle into accommodation;
  • Negotiate work or further education;
  • Re-establish relationships;
  • Resist the temptation to drink or use drugs excessively;
  • Avoid situations where offending may occur.

It is good practice to have some joint appointments with the child/young person, YOT worker and Child’s social worker/PA so that information is shared and the child receives an integrated service. The YOT worker should consult the Child’s social worker/PA over enforcement issues, particularly if there is a possibility of the child/young person being breached. Children Services social worker and YOT workers should keep each other informed of significant events, including any changes in service delivery or plans to close the case.


14. Review Process

This protocol and agreement will be reviewed and updated within two years of being signed off, or if there is significant legislative change that determines that a review is required.

End